How he made his pile: Thomas the Tank Engine - Retro talking steam train

The Thomas and Friends franchise now nets more than £1.1bn annually.

Who is he?
An anthropomorphic steam engine from the fictional Isle of Sodor who has kept kids entertained since 1945. The Thomas and Friends franchise now nets more than £1.1bn annually.

How did he make his millions?
The series of 41 books written by the Rev W Awdry and his son Christopher have sold more than 50 million copies. But it's not the Awdrys who have reaped most of the benefit of Thomas' success: ex-BBC TV producer Britt Allcroft bought the long-term rights for £50,000 in 1982 before they were sold, along with others, to Hit Entertainment in 2003 for $350m.

The secret of his success?
Enlisting the help of stars, including Ringo Starr and Alec Baldwin, has helped give the character mainstream appeal. Although the first film, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, fared badly at the box office, a high-budget second movie is now planned. And with Shrek the Third writer Josh Klausner on board, it's likely to be a runaway success. Peep peep, poop poop.

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